What the world needs now
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - September 1, 2014 - 12:00am

People act or behave emotionally 80 percent of the time and rationally 20 percent of the time. A number of studies attest to this. Ask a PR communicator and, in all likelihood, he will agree that his publics don’t decide what to support or not to support on a purely rational basis. When making decisions about brands, services, or causes, they usually go with their guts. Many celebrities and ordinary people, for example, took the ice bucket challenge because of the heightened emotionality attached to the call for ALS awareness and research. Emotions and decision-making are linked in the brain. Both rely on the same neural network. Emotion triggers preference, reason draws up the customer list, but emotion makes the decision.

There are hundreds of emotions, among which is the emotion called love. In any language, type or form, love is probably the most powerful emotion there is. Love is all about authentic fondness, fidelity, fervor, and faithfulness to the things in people’s lives that matter most. Growth and development is moved, inspired and fired up by people’s feelings, not by their logic, however sound it may appear.

Many communicators have already adopted a communication principle used in producing creative solutions and winning ideas anchored on the emotion of love. It is aptly called “Lovemarks,” a brainchild of Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts. It was developed and introduced after years of studying the habits and behavior of consumers that sought to answer why some brands succeed while others die on the vine, and why some brands motivate while others struggle.

In the course of the research, Roberts realized that many brands have already lost their magic and need a major makeover; others may catch attention through creative executions or earn respect through superior quality. Sadly, though, they don’t hit people where they should — their hearts.

“Lovemarks” stir loyalty beyond reason. It is the future beyond brands. The philosophy behind it dates back to the early days of communication when emotion was a mere postscript. Brands were built and boomed in a commonsensical and functional world of product benefits. Twenty or 30 years ago there were fewer brands on the market and most communication campaigns followed a blinkered, feature-oriented strategy, and all barking the comparative (“er”) propositions — newer, stronger, silkier, and brighter. To a certain extent this approach gets a brand connected to its targeted public, since in those days there was often a big difference in terms of quality.

In today’s business environment, the “er” descriptors are kaput. Old brands are constantly reinvented and reintroduced. Better brands are constantly launched that often eclipse the mature ones, and most importantly, brand choice is now based on the combination of functional (rational), and non-functional (emotional) advantages. The challenge for communicators is to move the brand from a comparative (“er”) position to a superlative (“est”) platform.

In “Lovemarks,” when a new brand is born or launched the very first thing that happens is that it is registered as a trademark. Over time, as we consume the brand and become familiar with it, it becomes a “trustmark.” You visit Jollibee not just for its bestselling Chicken Joy, but for the experience it brings. You go to your favorite McDonald’s outlet to savor your much-desired Big Mac in surroundings as familiar as home.

There is a whole psychology behind such cravings that leads to infinite loyalty, something to which you can completely relate. After all, you may have been a Safeguard kid and remain so to this day — a Safeguard adult. You may have a set of Apple gadgets on your office desk or a bunch of matching Nike apparel in your closet, a set of Pantene shampoo and conditioner in your bathroom, SanMig Light in your fridge right next to Coke Zero, Tropicana Coco or Del Monte pineapple juice, and a Toyota Fortuner in your garage. You will agree that some of these brands are better than their competitors, and some are traditional, but at the end of the day, you have to own up that your allegiance is quite unexplainable.

The power of devotion, and the manipulation of love aren’t mere academic-speak. Companies make billions of pesos a year by playing on the emotions of “feelers” like you and me. Consumers have a mind and stomach of their own, but they, too, can get confused, nervous, and insecure. Their support is largely influenced by brands they are emotionally linked with, brands they believe in, names they trust, and brands they love. Indeed, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. That has never been clearer.

“As brands have become commodified and are owned by corporations, ‘Lovemarks’ are people-owned,” Roberts explained. “People and brands come together in transactions and in relationships. Mysterious, sensual, and intimate ‘Lovemarks’ rise above brands. Brands can be easily forgotten or replaced, but ‘Lovemarks’ cannot —they enthuse consumer affinity. They don’t just deliver beyond your expectations, but they create an intimate, emotional connection that you cannot live without. In a nutshell, ‘Lovemarks’ don’t impress — they inspire.”

There is a science behind Lovemarks, too. Saatchi & Saatchi calls it the Love/Respect (L/R) axis — a tool that allows the team working on a brand to plot where any particular brand, person or thing sits on an emotional scale. To illustrate, Rubik’s Cube, Paris Hilton, reality shows, and Tamagotchi are pop brands. They are fads and infatuations that have low respect but high love. Water and electricity are commodities, with zero brand heat and thus command low respect and low love. Most local brands in the country are classified as basic brands rife with the “er” words, which bring on high respect, and low love while Jollibee and Apple are labeled “Lovemarks” with high respect and high love.

“Lovemarks” aren’t just another ad agency gimmick — they are a critical element to winning the race. Your publics don’t have time for you — they have enough to think about already — and a functional product story will get lost in today’s cluttered media environment.

If you want your brand to succeed in this fiercely competitive world, transpose it from a lousy, static trademark to a grand, dynamic “Lovemark.” For sure you will see the difference.

PR: IT’S A LOVE THING

In the public relations field, the goal for brands to become Lovemarks should take center stage as well. While the new “You-niverse” or largely, the “selfie” generation presents challenges, it also provides opportunities as well. Where the locus of control shifts toward individuals and small groups or communities, PR can rise up to the challenge of co-creating brand love with these consumers and stakeholders in general.

The Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), of which I’m currently president, tackles brand love with the theme “PR: It’s a Love Thing!” at the 21st National Public Relations Congress, to be held on Sept. 25 to 26 at the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City.

The two-day industry meet brings marketing and communications professionals together with top PR practitioners, agencies and thought leaders, not only from the Philippines but from around the globe. These esteemed resource speakers will share knowledge, information and insights into the current trends and practices of PR in helping build “Lovemarks,” or what is considered today’s definition of strong and effective brands.

First-day sessions will revolve around getting today’s generation of savvy customers and stakeholders onto brand love — utilizing popular tools such as social media, and enlisting the right influencers and brand ambassadors. Actual case studies from invited industry professionals will illustrate unique and exciting experiences, from crowd sourcing to viral dissemination of messages and meanings.

Sessions on the second and final day will include more real-life success stories of brand love through PR, from the top-level point of view of CEOs and heads of some of the most profitable and lucrative consumer brands in the region and in the world. Corporate social responsibility or CSR as one of the most sustainable manifestations of brand love is another key emerging trend that will be tackled.

Most importantly, this year’s PR congress will feature the results of a first-ever study on the state of public relations practice in the country, seeking to solidify the local industry’s solidarity, especially in terms of professionalizing and institutionalizing best practices.

* * *

Email bongosorio@yahoo.com or bong_osorio@abs-cbn.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

Interested participants, delegates and sponsors can contact the PRSP Congress secretariat at 661-7209 or email prcongress2014@ngpimc.com.

BIG MAC BRAND BRANDS CHICKEN JOY COKE ZERO DEL MONTE LOVE LOVEMARKS SAATCHI
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